“The Fire Department probably works closer that any other department in town with the ambulance service, and Chief Souliotis strongly supported Cataldo,” Harrington said.
Cataldo will take over AMR’s contract in town until it ends on June 30, Harrington said. The town will evaluate its performance when determining if it will continue with the company or seek other candidates.
Harrington said when making his decision, he was looking for a company that would provide good quality of care to the town’s residents and visitors.
Another factor in his decision was to find a company that would show its support to the community by helping out local charities and joining the Chamber of Commerce, to which Cataldo agreed.
But one of the most important factors was for the ambulance company to have a relationship with Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance, something AMR did not have and which became problematic. Cataldo entered into a contract with BC/BS in October, Cataldo said.
Harrington said his understanding is that AMR’s not being a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts provider made life financially difficult for the company. It left the ambulance service having to chase down patients for payment, which was not cost-effective, Harrington said.
“I wanted to ensure that the next ambulance company had a relationship with Blue Cross so as not to run into the same problem again,” Harrington said.
When AMR pulled out, there had been some discussion of the town’s fire department taking over, but Harrington said that would have necessitated a huge financial commitment. Salisbury only has five full-time firefighters, he said, and isn’t a full-time fire department, relying on part-time and call staff when needed.
But an ambulance service has to be provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“You need at least two people staffing the ambulance 24/7,” he said. “We’d have to hire a lot more staff. It would have been cost-prohibitive.”